Bruins

ThoughtsObservations from P-Bruins scrimmage

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ThoughtsObservations from P-Bruins scrimmage

NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. A few thoughts and observations from the first day of scrimmaging at Providence Bruins training camp at the Rhode Island Sports Center as the two groups played against each other.

The Black squad otherwise known as Group B pounded the White Squad (Group A) by a 5-1 score including a four-point game from defenseman Zach Trotman, who finished with a hat trick along with an assist built on a series of long range bomb shots from the point.

Trotman laughed at the notion that hes an offensive defenseman, but he did score 11 goals last season for Lake Superior State and consistently found a way to get pucks through traffic. The Bruins signed the 6-foot-4, 202 pound blueliner while he still had one year of NCAA eligibility remaining, and theres a healthy ceiling for the prospect given his size, shooting ability and commitment to playing two-way hockey. Hes flown under the radar during his experience at Bruins development camp, but he wont any more after pumping three goals in during the teams first dress rehearsal.

Ryan Spooner was noticeable in creating a number of offensive opportunities, and the most encouraging part of it was his ability to turn defense into offense. On at least three occasions Spooner pressure defensemen on the forecheck, stole the puck away and then moved in for a one-on-one chance against the goalie. He didnt end up with any points, but its that merging of skill and hockey instincts that will make him highly effective at the AHL level this season.

Jared Knight is showing that hes not fooling around in his first pro camp with guys like Peter Chiarelli, Jim Benning, Don Sweeney and Claude Julien watching along with both the AHL and NHL coaching staffs. He dropped to his knees to block shots on at least two instances in a scrimmage, and crashed hard into the boards once after a collision on of his patented power forward drives to the net. Knight was a gritty, physical presence and appeared more than willing to do the kind of things required of a bottom-six forward at the NHL level. The offense wasnt as consistently noticeable for Knight, but its a positive sign if hes still making an impact when his shots arent falling.

I actually thought goaltender Shaun Hunwick was a kid picked from the stands before being informed that he was a last-minute addition to the roster of P-Bruins players invited to training camp. He actually got into three minutes of a Columbus Blue Jackets game last season after a very successful career at the University of Michigan, but his 5-foot-7, 163 pound body is a tough hurdle to overcome. Hes reportedly got the same great attitude that older brother, and former Bs defenseman, Matt Hunwick possesses, and hell need it to silence the critics.

Free agent signee Matthew Pistilli helped contribute to several of Trotmans goals by using his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame to screen Niklas Svedberg in front of the net, and he fed a nice cross-ice pass to a trailing Trotman for another goal in the hat trick. Amid some players with a greater degree of hype attached to their names, Pistilli really stood out on Day One.

The Providence coaching staff interchanged Lane MacDermid and Max Sauve in with the two of them, but it appears theyre looking to pair Spooner with Chris Bourque from the start of camp. They developed some nice chemistry together over the course of the two 20 minute periods, and Bourque also added a tally when he snapped a shot from the high slot past Hunwick in the final 20 minutes. Bourque also missed on a backhander earlier in the scrimmage off a nice feed from Spooner, and had enjoyed some of the best offensive chances out on the ice. Bourque looks ready to go early in a training camp hed been eagerly looking forward to.

Speaking of goaltenders, Niklas Svedberg looked a little shaky in first outing. He was having trouble tracking pucks through traffic, but thats understandable given the adjustment from European Leagues to North American pro hockey. Many European goaltenders talk about the significant transition time going for larger rinks to the smaller ones in the NHL and AHL. Both Mike Hutchinson and Adam Morrison looked solid between the pipes.

Alden Hirschfeld was a former teammate of Carter Camper at Miami (OH) and they teamed up for the White Teams only goal. Camper fed Hirschfeld a pass from behind the net and his old Red Hawks teammate snapped it home. Hirschfeld also threw around his 6-foot-1, 206-pound frame with reckless abandon and teamed with Tommy Cross for one of the best collisions of the scrimmage.

Christian Hanson didnt appear to lose a face-off through the scrimmage and stood out at as the biggest specimen on the ice at 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds. You can see why an NHL team would view him as a very useful role player as the Maple Leafs organization did over the last few years.

Justin Florek was around the net and popped in the rebound of a Trotman shot for one of the Black Teams five goals. He performed the same kind of good hands garbage man work at the Bs Development camp over the last few years, and looks like yet another prudent signing of a player lured away from NCAA eligibility at Northern Michigan.

David Warsofsky can skate and has plenty of confidence, but the wrap-around-the-net breakout move from the defensive zone isnt something that Claude Julien and the Boston coaching staff are fully in love with. Its pretty high risk without much reward at the NHL level, and its something could become very predictable if its used too much during game action with experienced fore-checkers.

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

BOSTON – It was the final piece of closure for former Bruins coach Claude Julien when he made his return to TD Garden for the first time as the bench boss for the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. Julien stood on the visiting bench, watched a first period video tribute of appreciation for his 10 years guiding the Bruins and then received the warm, thankful ovation from the B’s fans that still very much appreciate his efforts that resulted in a 2011 Stanley Cup title. 

Unfortunately for him and the Canadiens he also presided over a lifeless, limp effort from his Montreal club in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins where his team simply couldn’t derive any emotion or juice from his return to Boston. Julien said in both French and English that that his Habs simply “laid an egg” on the road, and that was disappointing for him given that Montreal already has its back against the wall for a possible playoff spot. 

Instead Julien’s biggest bright spot in the game turned out to be the video tribute from the Bruins midway through the first period, for which he was greatly appreciative. 

“It’s always something that you kind of dread a little bit because it’s a little emotional, and at the same time [you’re] trying to keep your emotions intact there so you can coach a game and stuff like that. But, you know, I appreciate what they did for me,” said Julien following his second loss to the Bruins in five days. “As I said, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about this organization that gave me the opportunity to spend 10 years here. At the same time I’m kind of happy it’s over so we can move on now, but that doesn’t mean you forget what’s happened here. It’s always going to be with you. But now I’m in another chapter of my coaching career, and I’ve got to think about that.”

Julien’s counterpart, Bruce Cassidy, called the video tribute a “classy move” by the Bruins organization after the game had been settled, and there’s no doubting it was the right move for a coach that won over 400 games during his 10 years leading the Bruins. It was also the final chapter in his Bruins book as Julien now has completely moved on to his new gig guiding the Canadiens where it seems like his work is most definitely cut out for him. 

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

GOLD STAR: It had to feel good for Ryan Spooner. The speedy forward played a great game, finished with the game-winning goal in Claude Julien’s return to Boston and had both four shots on net and four registered hits in 16:07 of ice time. His goal was a level of grit and buy-in that he didn’t always have when Julien was the coach, but it’s one that he’s found more and more since Bruce Cassidy took over behind the B’s bench. Spooner drove the puck straight toward the net, and attempted to throw a pass backdoor to Matt Grzelcyk. But instead the puck bounced off Jonathan Drouin’s skate and ended up in the back of the net to make it a 2-1 game in the second period. For a player that long struggled under the watchful eye of Julien, Spooner’s night continued a stretch of very strong play since coming back from injury. 

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Drouin was supposed to be a game-changing center for the Canadiens after being moved from Tampa Bay, but he hasn’t even been close to that, or actually being a center, for the Habs this year. Drouin really didn’t bring much of anything on Wednesday night with a couple of shots on net, a giveaway and a 1-for-9 on the draw in his 17:04 of ice time. He was like so many of the other players on the Montreal roster that didn’t show up with their best in a rivalry game between the Bruins and the Habs. Even worse than that they didn’t show up in a game they desperately needed to win if they wanted to stay relevant in the playoff race. With the minus game again on Wednesday, Drouin is also now a minus-20 on the season in what’s been a truly disappointing year. 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins bounced back strongly after giving up a goal on the first shift of the game, and really took things over after the fortunate bounce for Jakub Jerabek got the Habs on the board early. The Bruins outshot the Canadiens by a 25-13 margin in the first two periods, dominated play and posted a goal in each of the first two periods to get the B’s on the board. From that point on it was smooth sailing and Boston only needed to collect a couple of insurance goals in the third period to truly seal Montreal’s fate. What was surprising was that the Habs showed little fight or pride while slowly sinking into the mud during the game, and never ever provided any real challenge to the Bruins in a game that was still separated by just a single goal until later in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: David Krejci had one of his better games for the Bruins with a goal, two points and a plus-2 rating in 15:58 of ice time. It was an empty net goal that rounded out the scoring in the third period, and he finished with four shot attempts, a takeaway and 16-of-20 face-off wins in 15:58 of ice time. In general the Bruins frontline centers absolutely and thoroughly dominated Montreal’s poor excuse for players down the middle of their lineup, and Krejci was a big part of that in helping set up Spooner’s game-winner as well. Krejci was also a player that had his differences of opinion with Julien when he was coaching the Bruins, so the big game for him on Wednesday night also must have felt pretty cathartic when it was all said and done.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of games for Tuukka Rask’s current point streak where he’s put together a 13-0-2 record that dates back to his four game benching in the middle of November. He finished with a solid night’s work of 21 saves in the win over the Habs.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We laid an egg.” –Claude Julien said that phrase in both French and English to discuss a truly pathetic performance for his Canadiens team in what should have been an intense Bruins/Habs rivalry game on national television. 

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